Jan 28, 2008


(I apologize to my English-only readers because all the links in this post go to texts in Spanish).

Like most things in life, telenovelas generate a variety of opinions. What some think is great, others believe is awful. More so in a tv genre that represents a true paradox: It's watched all over the world, and is still despised by many. Complicating things even more is the fact that telenovelas come in different writing and acting styles/qualities. Their production values are also diverse and highly dependent on networks' budgets and countries' political and economic conditions.

Another factor that influences the different likes and dislikes regarding telenovelas is that not every country is exposed to the same telenovelas. The offer they receive depends on the distributors' assumptions about what the public wants to watch. And those assumptions are often laden with underestimation of the audience.

I must also mention that there is no consensus regarding the definition of "success": High ratings in the country of origin? Number of countries that bought the telenovela? Number of countries where it had high ratings? Number of countries where it's still remembered? Influence in the social formation? Influence in the telenovela genre?

We can find an excellent example of this diversity in the post (and comments it generated) in television blog Espoiler, associated to Spain's daily El Pais and written by Hernán Casciari.

And, of course, the Internet is the locus of incredible contrasts. See how interesting is the range of opinions and comments we can find about Venezuelan telenovela Arroz Con Leche:


Plus the contrasts between negative opinions about this telenovela and the comments of those audience members who depend on youtube to be able to watch it.

The only sure thing about telenovelas is that there is no consensus about them.


Anonymous said...
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Robin N said...

What's the dicho, 'para gustos, hay colores'? Or, 'there's no accounting for taste'. The same seemingly-Quixotic reasons why one telenovela should become a hit are the same reasons why one tune inexplicably rises the charts, why books make the best-seller lists, etc. Sometimes it's a case of the power of the publicity machine, sometimes it's due to the actual quality of the vehicle, and sometimes it's simply a case of the stars being in alignment. In other words, it's impossible sometimes to understand why one item will 'click' with the audiences and others will fail. The graveyard of failed television programming is littered with the 'bones' of programs that had casts with great chemistry, tautly woven themes written with great panache, and top production values but that failed to find the right audience willing to commit.

Of course, in the US market you have the Univision juggernaut, which benefits by providing a mostly homogenous Mexico-produced product for an audience comprised significantly of the extremely large population of Spanish speakers of Mexican heritage. The tradition of watching the latest from 'home' keeps the viewer watching the same channel regardless of the quality -- good, bad, or indifferent -- available on other channels.

Dr. Carolina Acosta-Alzuru said...

There are several versions of the dicho. My favorite is "entre gustos y colores, no han escrito los autores".

You're right, Robin, there are many, many "bones" in that graveyard...

There are many reasons why people watch. For Hispanic/Latino immigrants in the US telenovelas are one way to have a bit of home while away from home. And, for that reason, they will watch.

For viewers who watch telenovelas in the different Latin American countries, it could be a matter of routine, or as I like to say, of telenovelas being part of the daily diet.

In any case, we're talking about a TV genre tightly linked to our emotional side, and I see that as one of the reasons for the existence of such a variety of gustos.

Thanks for leaving your comment!